21 January 2019
In early November 2018, the military judge at Hama Central Prison requested the transfer of 11 prisoners to Sednaya Military Prison to carry out the death sentences against them.
The 11 men were arrested between 2011 and 2015 by branches of the military and security services in Syria, and have been detained in Hama Central Prison since. On the basis of confessions extracted under torture, they were accused of “terrorism-related offences resulting in death”, a charge which is punishable by death. They were then sentenced to death by military field courts in Damascus between 2016 and 2017 following unfair trials which lasted two minutes each.
In order to stop the transfer of the 11 prisoners, fellow inmates at Hama Central Prison went on hunger strike for two weeks from November 12 to November 30, 2018. The hunger strike ended following a promise made by the prison authorities to resume negotiations to meet the prisoners’ demands.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Sednaya Military Prison has become infamous, being the place where thousands of detainees have been arbitrarily executed by hanging based on death sentences issued by military field courts following unfair trials.
In May 2016, a mutiny at Hama Central Prison temporarily stopped the transfers of prisoners to Sednaya Military Prison. However, the request for the transfer of the 11 prisoners in November 2018 shows that the prison authorities have decided to resume the transfer of prisoners to Sednaya.
In 2018, the Syrian regime officially confirmed the deaths of hundreds of prisoners who had been forcibly disappeared since the start of the conflict by updating its registers and issuing death notices to families. In November 2018, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic recommended the authorities “promptly, thoroughly, transparently, and independently” investigate “all custodial deaths, as well as deaths resulting from summary or extrajudicial executions.”
Furthermore, recent reports show that in the past year Syrian authorities have sharply increased their campaign of mass executions of detainees in Sednaya Military Prison, with satellite imagery showing an increase of the size of cemeteries where mass graves of prisoners from Sednaya have been identified.
On November 19, 2018, MENA Rights Group and the Syrian Commission for Releasing Detainees referred the cases of the 11 prisoners to the UN, requesting that it urgently call upon the Syrian authorities to halt the execution of their death sentences.